Your need for empathy

I have had some deep conversations with several women recently, and I walked away from those talks with spirits lifted. In fact, my heart seemed lighter and my path ahead seemed clearer.  Even though I used to have some pretty good talks with my husband, it was so delightful to have an extended chat with some females.  Talking with women filled a definite need for empathy.  It also really helped me to more clearly process some things going on in my life as I verbalized what was happening and how I felt about those events in my life.  These women were good listeners. They were able to handle my long and detailed account. They were able to empathize with my feelings.  I’m so glad I have friendships with women, and not just with a man.

How about you?  Do you have at least 2 deep friendships with other God-believing women? Do you have at least 2 women in your life who encourage you, empathize with you, or make you laugh?  We NEED each other!  A husband cannot possibly meet all your relational needs.  Men aren’t wired the same as women.  In case you haven’t noticed, most women need to talk about all the things happening in their lives, and we need listeners who will empathize with us!  Most men are not wired to listen to a lengthy discussion, and they generally aren’t wired to express a lot of empathy either.  But a good female friend can fill that void for you, and you can do the same for her.  We need another woman to speak sweet words of empathy and encouragement in a way that most men just don’t understand.  Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

So, be intentional about making some solid female friendships.  Invite a woman from church or work to coffee.  Be a good listener yourself.  Ask her to tell you about herself, her children, her challenges, her successes, her spiritual giftings, her hobbies.  Be a good listener.  You’ll be on your way to developing a good friendship.

** or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

Handling your anger or irritation!

Does your mouth often cause trouble between you and your husband (or between you and other people)?  If you’re one of many women who end up “venting” on their husband or saying harsh words you later regret, God’s Word gives us 3 clues on how we can respond appropriately when we start to feel our anger rising.

1)  Pause.  Just stop.  Leave the room for a moment if you need to.  Don’t react in the moment because your gut-level reaction will almost always cause trouble!  James 1:19 puts it this way, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  So pause before you react verbally.

2)  During the pause, consult the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand how to love and respect your husband with your response.  Would your husband be positively impacted by a gentle and encouraging word from you?  Would your husband be more willing to make changes that you’re requesting if you showed him respect by asking him to help you understand his perspective?  Philippians 2:4 says “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.

3)  When you’re ready to address the issue with your husband, say a silent prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to be the one speaking to your husband by using your mouth.  Trust me. The Holy Spirit will come up with much better words than you ever could, and will utter those words in a much more respectful way!  When speaking to his disciples, Jesus said in Matthew 10:19-20, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

The perfect gift for a man

The perfect gift for your husband…whether it’s Christmas, father’s day, his birthday or your anniversary….is super inexpensive.  Give him the gift of respect!  The Bible makes it clear that a wife is to respect her husband.  This instruction is found in Ephesians 5:33 which simply says “the wife must respect her husband”, and most wives know that a man craves his wife’s respect.  However, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to communicate that respect.   It’s especially difficult if your husband isn’t perfect!  We naturally gravitate to focusing on what’s wrong with our men as opposed to what’s right.

I’m not saying we should ignore a husband’s blatant sin or destructive patterns.  We definitely need to pray about confronting disrespectful, destructive, or immoral patterns of behavior.  However, we can’t ONLY focus on his areas of weakness.  Our men need to know that we believe in them.  They need to know that we notice their strengths too!

A simple way to communicate respect is to voice appreciation for the big and small things your husband does for you and your family.  Does he go to work each day?  Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work.  Does he set aside some time each day to play with the kids?  Let him know how much you appreciate that.  Does he refrain from stopping at the bar on the way home from work?  Tell him how much you appreciate that he comes straight home to his family.  A great gift you can give to your husband is your daily appreciation for all he does, and to affirm things that he actually does right!  It’s a sign of respect.

Men need time to process requests

Have you ever noticed a blank look on your husband’s face when you suddenly bring up a heavy topic, voice a frustration, or ask him to change a behavior?  Or does your husband seem to get defensive very quickly in those moments?  I’m discovering that the reason for the blank look or the immediate defensiveness is because a man thinks differently than a woman!

Women process thoughts, ideas and feelings at lightning speed.  We are ready to engage in a deep conversation at the drop of a hat.  We can verbalize how we feel instantaneously!  Men, on the other hand, need time to process their thoughts and feelings.  So…..when we suddenly bring up a deep topic, or state how we feel, or ask them to make a change in behavior, or heaven forbid, ask them how they feel, our men become like the proverbial “deer in the headlights”!   Often they default to the blank look on the face or they become defensive because they feel pressured to do or say something, and they haven’t yet had a chance to think things through.

Here’s what I learned to do.  I learned to bring up a concern or state my feelings on an issue and then let my husband have some breathing room to process it.  I learned to say “let’s talk more about this later after you’ve had a chance to think about it.”  Most men need some space to process their thoughts and feelings.  Maybe this is a good opportunity for us to practice patience!  Ponder these two Proverbs.  Proverbs 19:11  “A person’s wisdom yields patience…”  Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is patient has great understanding….”

How to feel God’s comfort

We all inevitably go through stretches in our marriages (or with kids, finances, health, etc!) that are pretty rough on our hearts.  Yes, we can persevere, pray, and trust in God during those times, and all those things are super important.  But sometimes, we just plain need comfort.  We need to sit in the lap of our heavenly father and have Him hold us tight.

Here is what I have discovered.  Reading the Psalms slowly and out loud is like a warm embrace from my heavenly Father.  As those words roll off my lips, I can almost feel His love and compassion flow over me.  I sense the tenderness of His heart toward me.  I gain hope once again.

Try it for yourself.  I would suggest some of these Psalms:  Psalm 103, Psalm 91, Psalm 34, and Psalm 37.   God longs to comfort you.  He loves you.  As Psalm 103 says, “Our Father is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love.

Common communication pitfall in marriage

How many times have you muttered to yourself “He should just KNOW!”.  Most wives have muttered this time and time again.  I know I have, and just the other day, my husband and I were counseling a couple where this communication pitfall rose to the surface so clearly.  She needed her husband to romance her a little before physical intimacy and he had no clue!  She started getting resentful.  He most definitely felt her cold shoulder, but was oblivious to the problem!!

Expecting your husband to know what you want and need without clearly telling him…is a common communication pitfall.  Unfortunately, your husband doesn’t just “know” because he doesn’t think like a woman and most men have no idea what a woman wants or needs from her husband.  We can’t assume our husbands know what we want!

Avoiding this communication pitfall is so easy.  As a wife, clearly, concisely, and directly tell your husband what you want. Clearly tell him what you need.  Let him know the specifics as well!  Let me give a simple example.  Let’s say you have company coming over and the house is a mess.  Plus, you’re trying to make a dessert to serve.  So, you’re feeling stressed.  Meanwhile, your husband is oblivious to your inner turmoil. He’s contentedly watching ESPN.  In most cases, the wife would finally say “Hey, can you vacuum the house please?”.  To which the husband says, “sure” and continues watching ESPN.  At this point, the wife blows a gasket in frustration.  Here’s the thing.  She didn’t give him the details of what she was asking for.  Instead of simply asking, “Can you vacuum?”, she needed to say “Can you vacuum right now?”  She needed to clearly spell out what she was asking for and when.

Clear, honest communication is a gift to your husband!  It reminds me of Proverbs 24:26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

The power of pausing during prayer

When we face a challenge, a dilemma, or even a crisis…we tend to search high and low for the easy answer.   We cry out to God, asking him to give us the magic pill that will make it all go away!  We call our mom or our girlfriends, and we whine and complain about the problem, hoping they will have the magical, painless answer to our situation.  Well, here’s the thing.  The answer isn’t easy, but it is simple.  Seek God’s counsel and then actually pause to listen. 

Proverbs 18:13 says “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”  Yet, that is exactly what many of us do.  We complain to God.  We pray that he would magically fix our situation in the way that WE say is best, and yet, we don’t actually consult the Bible to see what guidance he has for us.  We pray that God would tell us what to do about the problem, yet we don’t actually pause to listen for the Holy Spirit’s quiet whisper of guidance.

The answer is simple.  Dive into God’s Word.  It will guide you.  Psalm 119:105 says. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”   Ask God to give you direction through a quiet whisper to your spirit from the Holy Spirit, who is our counselor.  John 14:26 says (in the Amplified Bible), “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf, He will teach you all things.”

Submit to my husband?!? What?!

I don’t claim to be the authority on the Bible’s instruction for wives to submit to their husbands, but after spending considerable time studying God’s Word, here’s what I have come to believe on this controversial subject.  God definitely plans for all of us to live under authority.  I would imagine He knows this prevents chaos from breaking loose!  So, in a family unit, God has placed the man as the authority, and the wife and children are under his authority.  If we used a business analogy, it’s rather like your husband is the general manager who must make the major decisions on the policy and ground rules for how the business will operate.

So what does this look like for a wife?   This means choosing to treat your husband respectfully and allowing your husband to lead you and your family.  Instead of you jumping into to take over leadership, and instead of you deciding how everything should go, you allow your husband to lead.  However, just as in a business, a wise husband will value the input and sage counsel of the wife who is usually more intimately involved with handling family matters each day.  

Now, where “submitting” to your husband can go haywire is when the husband veers off course morally or Biblically.  When the husband starts leading the family (or requesting the family) to engage or support wrong behavior, then the wife need not submit to such decisions.  Her first allegiance is to God and His commands.  God is the ultimate authority.   I believe that is why the Bible includes a “qualifier” in one of the instructions for the wife to submit to her husband.  It is found in Colossians 3:18, which says “the wife must submit to her husband, as is fitting in the Lord.   If your husband is asking you to do something that is not “fitting in the Lord”, I don’t believe you must submit to such leadership.  I believe a wife can respectfully draw the line.   In addition, it’s my belief, from studying all of God’s Word, that “submission” does not mean the wife must be a doormat who tolerates disrespectful or even abusive behavior by her husband.  Such behavior by the husband is not “fitting in the Lord” either.   Submission is not being a doormat. 

** or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW

How respect affects your husband

Have you ever had this thought…”I don’t respect my husband”?  Honestly, I had that thought quite often in my first marriage, and because I didn’t FEEL respect, I didn’t ACT particularly respectful.  Unfortunately, I just went with how I felt.  I rolled my eyes at his ideas.  I took control of most everything in our family because I didn’t think he was capable.  I corrected him a lot.  And…..after quite a few years, he turned to other women for validation.

I learned many lessons after that failed marriage.  One of them is that a man desperately needs the respect of his wife.  He needs to know that she believes in him and is FOR him.  Now, this doesn’t mean she is supposed to ignore destructive and sinful choices in his life.  No, she needs to gently, but firmly, confront him if he is caught in a pattern of sin.  But, even then, she can be loving and kind and respectful!

In my 2nd marriage to Raul, I began pressing into this Biblical command (Ephesians 5:33) for wives to respect their husbands.  And oh my, what a difference it made!  He told me many times that he wouldn’t be able to tackle the things he was doing in life and for God if it weren’t for me being FOR him.  In fact, he often got tears in his eyes when I treated him respectfully because it was a new thing for him as well…and he desperately craved my respect.  All men do.  Try it and see what happens in your marriage.  Have you already tried it?  How has it impacted your marriage?

Handling devil-inspired thoughts

Don’t you sometimes wish you could silence the voices in your head?  You may hear the voice that runs you down and reminds you of your failures…or conversely, you may hear a voice that tells you your husband is a loser and you’re doomed to a life of misery.  Either kind of thought is from the pit of hell!

We MUST examine every thought rolling around in our heads and determine whether it’s true or whether it’s a twisting of the truth that’s inspired by Satan.  Remember, Satan’s mission is “to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  He wants to slowly crush you with the weight of his lies about your value, your future and your husband.

2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to “take every thought captive” and we really need to do that.  The next time a self-deprecating thought enters your mind, stop and ask God if this is really true.  (I bet it won’t be!)  The next time a hopeless thought enters your mind, ask God if it’s true. (I know it won’t be!).  The next time you have the thought that your husband is beyond redemption, ask God if that’s true.  (Absolutely not!).  It’s time we stopped believing every thought that pops into our minds!  We must intentionally pause and ask God whether that thought is true or from the devil. Here’s a simple, but hugely clarifying, question to ask yourself in that moment:  “Does this sound like something God would say?”